Why Driverless Cars Will Screech to a Stop

Every driver makes hundreds of daily driving decisions that, strictly speaking, break driving laws (for example, crossing the yellow line to pull around a double-parked vehicle). What company is going to program its driverless cars to break the law?

Will insurance policies for driverless cars cover the car itself? Or will they cover the owner of the vehicle? Or perhaps the technology company that controls the car’s routes? Who will be responsible if there is an accident? The individual owner or the the vehicle manufacturer? Or the company that designed the navigation system?

This is probably the biggest issue that will prevent or slow down the use of driverless cars. Unless they can ride on rails, there will be accidents, and there will be questions of liability.

(Via Why Driverless Cars Will Screech to a Stop | Observer.)

14 thoughts on “Why Driverless Cars Will Screech to a Stop

  1. Good point – liability. The idea of a track (which could be embedded magnetic or RF sensors) would be nice for major highways, offering high speed commuting for a major part of a drive to/from work, but there will be 3-4 competing technologies fighting to become the standard & I’ll probably be dead before it comes to fruition.

    • Yes, like a bus lane on highways now, but with, as you say, embedded sensors, and perhaps even guardrails.

  2. Good point – liability. The idea of a track (which could be embedded magnetic or RF sensors) would be nice for major highways, offering high speed commuting for a major part of a drive to/from work, but there will be 3-4 competing technologies fighting to become the standard & I’ll probably be dead before it comes to fruition.

    • Yes, like a bus lane on highways now, but with, as you say, embedded sensors, and perhaps even guardrails.

  3. On the other hand, I feel a high level of confidence that this will happen and rather soon, a matter of 5-10 years. Driverless vehicles are embedded with an extraordinary array of sensors that are continuously recording data. I foresee accidents being resolved satisfactorily by analyzing recorded data. I can see authorities like the police using devices to securely download the data on site for such purposes.

    A potential point of liability is technical failures in the recording or the interpretation by such devices. That, I imagine, would be the fault of the manufacturer (in the same way auto defect liabilities are assumed by auto or parts manufacturers).

    There’s also a lot of initiative from so many large enterprises and I think this is becoming a matter of technological pride as well as great political interest.

  4. On the other hand, I feel a high level of confidence that this will happen and rather soon, a matter of 5-10 years. Driverless vehicles are embedded with an extraordinary array of sensors that are continuously recording data. I foresee accidents being resolved satisfactorily by analyzing recorded data. I can see authorities like the police using devices to securely download the data on site for such purposes.

    A potential point of liability is technical failures in the recording or the interpretation by such devices. That, I imagine, would be the fault of the manufacturer (in the same way auto defect liabilities are assumed by auto or parts manufacturers).

    There’s also a lot of initiative from so many large enterprises and I think this is becoming a matter of technological pride as well as great political interest.

  5. Don’t buy it. It’s a complex issue that will take some time to sort out. However, accidents will be fewer and insurance companies will be all over that. It’s possible the manufacturer of the car may carry the insurance and be part of the price of the car. The total cost of the car + insurance will be lower than today (any way that it is resolved).

  6. Don’t buy it. It’s a complex issue that will take some time to sort out. However, accidents will be fewer and insurance companies will be all over that. It’s possible the manufacturer of the car may carry the insurance and be part of the price of the car. The total cost of the car + insurance will be lower than today (any way that it is resolved).

  7. I agree with David. While liability issues have strangled many good ideas, the major players in auto safety are aware that driverless cars will save tens of thousands of lives, and billions of dollars, over a ten year period (after widespread adoption). The insurance industry was slow to accept no-fault insurance, but it proved to be a winning formula for everyone. There is more than enough money in the car insurance system to pay for the liability questions on what will be a substantially safer approach to driving.

    The bigger problem right now is cyber-security for the driverless car systems, and for cars in general. Today’s cars are very hackable, with potentially horrible results. The driverless systems haven’t emphasized cyber-security either. That will take some time to sort out, as well, but it is doable.

  8. I agree with David. While liability issues have strangled many good ideas, the major players in auto safety are aware that driverless cars will save tens of thousands of lives, and billions of dollars, over a ten year period (after widespread adoption). The insurance industry was slow to accept no-fault insurance, but it proved to be a winning formula for everyone. There is more than enough money in the car insurance system to pay for the liability questions on what will be a substantially safer approach to driving.

    The bigger problem right now is cyber-security for the driverless car systems, and for cars in general. Today’s cars are very hackable, with potentially horrible results. The driverless systems haven’t emphasized cyber-security either. That will take some time to sort out, as well, but it is doable.

  9. My guess is that initially the vast majority of driverless cars will be owned by Uber like services. If Uber is buying thousands of cars from Google (or some other company) then they can work out the liability issues between themselves and self insure. There is no reason to purchase one of these and have it parked 22 hours a day.

  10. My guess is that initially the vast majority of driverless cars will be owned by Uber like services. If Uber is buying thousands of cars from Google (or some other company) then they can work out the liability issues between themselves and self insure. There is no reason to purchase one of these and have it parked 22 hours a day.

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